Saturday, October 11, 2014

Utah Calling!

Any gathering of like minded people is certain to be a joyous affair.  The opportunity for genealogists to gather and meet up in Salt Lake City, Utah in February 2015 will be no different.  While some travelers may know one another, most will arrive among strangers.  Inevitably, however, strangers will connect and leave as friends.

Since I have had the good fortune to have experienced a week researching ancestors at the Family History Library, I know firsthand that it is a truly remarkable place. 
The library itself is situated directly across the street from Temple Square.  The Square is filled with incomparable gardens and the fragrance of whatever is in bloom.  The time spent wandering among the ponds, flowers, streams and statues will refresh even the most troubled soul.  Somehow, the mind, heart and soul become rested, cleared and renewed.

Many of those enjoying the gardens are present to experience the same refreshment.  Joining with others, gathering for conference meetings or for library research enables us to reach out among the living even as we each reach into the past to connect to those who came before us.  No matter who we are, we now lead our ancestral lines, traveling steadily onward until we too are led by those who come after us.  Yes, we are connected in our homes, our towns, our states, our lands.  

Eventually, through our sometimes tedious explorations, we may find our connections reach even deeper.  Researching the past can sometimes lead us to a name we may share with another researcher, a town we have in common, even a child on a passenger list that we had no former knowledge of.
Researchers connect in all sorts of ways.  Cousins find cousins, children find great grandparents, countries of family origins are found.

So, come to Utah!  I invite you to make the journey!  Bring your questions, research the answers, explore the resources available, connect with others who, like you, have an insatiable appetite to know their roots and above all......leave refreshed and more knowledgeable than when you came.  Leave inspired to continue your work.  Leave fired up to support the genealogical community and all of its endeavors.  Leave having explored, connected and refreshed!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Land of the Latter Day Saints - Celebrate the Mormon Pioneers!

It's been 168 years since the first of Joseph Smith's saints set foot in the Great Utah Valley led by Brother Brigham Young.  In the years 1846 to 1869, greater than 70,000 Mormons traveled the dusty wagon tracks of the road west - the road known as The Mormon Pioneer Trail.  Some traveled in wagons, some walked beside them, some rode animals, others pushed hand carts across the some odd 1,300 miles.  The "Saints" as they were called, left journals, diaries, letters, art and artifacts behind to tell their tale.  Most importantly, they left behind their belief that we are indeed all one people united under the Heavenly Father.  As a result, and in an effort to ensure the reunification of families in the Heavenly Kingdom, Latter Day Saints have worked tirelessly to collect, collate, film, digitize and distribute ancestral documents throughout the world.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Library has the largest holdings of these microfilmed records, so it was a natural choice for my niece, Emily and my next genealogical adventure!
Salt Lake City and Temple Square became the destination for our travels in the summer of 2014.
We joined an Ancestor Seekers ( tour for a week of research and exploration.  We arrived with a three page list of documents that we wanted to find that we had compliled earlier from the free LDS genealogical site,

The Family History Library has "over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed records and more than 727,000 microfiche, containing the names of more than 3 billion deceased people.  It houses over 356,000 genealogical and local history books, over 4,500 periodicals, maps and atlases and more than 3,725 electronic databases and resources" *   Located across from Temple Square, the FHL is open to the public at no charge and it is estimated that 1,500 people visit every day.  To store and to safeguard the original microfilms and records, The Granite Mountain Records Vault was built in the early 1960's near Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Records in the massive collections date from the 17th Century to the middle 20th Century.
After being welcomed by a Baked Potato Buffet the night of our arrival in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, we set to work early the next morning.  We spent five days researching documents, breaking only for a quick lunch in the massive church office and administration building cafeteria.  Our nights were filled with tours of the amazing gardens,  the Tabernacle, and attendance at a rehearsal of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  

We even managed a side trip to the
 Pioneer Heritage Park built to commemorate the
 location where Brother Brigham made his famous
 "this is the place" declaration. 

 We drove out to see the Great Salt Lake firsthand and found it to be a vast and desolate spot.  Yet, what a vision of hope it must have been to those early, tired and worn pioneers as they came across the mountains and saw the valley below.

 How grateful I am to those brave and steadfast people who risked all to cross the plains not knowing what lay ahead but holding fast to their faith in God and answering the call:  "Come, Come Ye Saints, no toil nor trouble fear, but with joy, wend your way." *

* The Mormons: An Illustrated History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, edited by Roy A. Prete.  (Pg. 122).

*Come, Come Ye Saints....text Wm. Clayton,                                                                                           English Folk Song. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One Lovely Blog! Ask me if I'm excited.....

Many thanks today to Elise Ann Wormuth, author of Living in the Past for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog award!  It is indeed an honor to be considered worthy of such recognition and I am most appreciative.  There are only a few expectations of me at this point, that I recognize Elise, that I reveal 7 things about myself, and that I nominate up to 15 fellow bloggers - which I am more than happy to do.

1.  I am retired and as such, finally have the time to research and investigate the details of my family origins, ancestors, occupations and beliefs.  
2.  I have two sons whom show little interest in their genealogy at the time but whom will most likely become more interested as they age, much as I did.
3.  I have my deceased father in law to thank for my obsession with genealogy as he worked tirelessly on his own in a time when there were no computers, programs such as, FTM, or any of the others.  His work was done strictly with letters, phone calls and personal visits.  I honor him for the work he did on his family and credit him with the interest he invoked in me for finding my own.
4.  I am married to a true "Renaissance man" who tolerates my hours at the computer with a good nature, an interest in my findings, and a willingness to submit his own DNA for scrutiny.
5.  I believe that the mailman is like Santa Claus and any day he brings a document is like Christmas!
6.  I have great hope that the work I do on my genealogy will be found valuable to the generations to come in my family.
7.  I am thankful to all fellow bloggers and to the various genealogical Facebook pages which have been of tremendous interest and help to me.  I have learned so much from others and am grateful for all the quick responses to questions I have asked on so many group pages.  Last of all, I will be eternally grateful to the LDS community for so willingly opening their doors to all of us and sharing their amazing library of documents.

In return for my nomination, I would like to nominate the following blogs for the One Lovely Blog award.  

Diane Hall author of Michigan Family Trails
Shawnee Cannon author of Classic Mormon Mom
Derek Davey author of Genealogy - Southeast Michigan
Laura author of Mellon Blogs
Julie Goucher author of Angler's Rest - The Book of Me written By You

Thanks again to Elise!  My research is also in Germany as yours is.  May the genealogy gods go with you in your work.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Family Pioneer

Johannes Jakob Stobener could accurately be known as our family pioneer as he arrived in the U.S. 
earlier than any of our other immigrant ancestors.  Jacob, as he was known, was born on the 8th of March in 1820.  He was from a large family who were living in Vordenweidenthal, Sudliche Weinstrasse, in the Rheinland-Pfalz of Germany.  He was the son of Johannes Jakob Stobner, born in 1776 and Maria Barbara Veiock, born in 1779.  The couple had six children; Johannes Heinrich born in 1803, Johannes Markus born in 1805, Elizabeth born in 1810, Katharina born in 1815, our Johannes Jakob and Johannes Michael born in 1824.
In those days, homes, farms and goods were willed to the eldest son in a family and the rest of the children were left without.  As a result, in many families, once parents had died, the younger children were virtually "cast out" on their own.  Jacob, not the eldest, immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York on the 2 of May in 1851.  He was 31 years of age.  
Jacob had already married Anna Marie Christoffel who had been born in Rheinpfalz, Germany on the 11th of March in 1819.  Anna Marie listed her occupation as "cook".  Not the first in the family and certainly, not the last.

Jacob applied for and received his Naturalization Papers on the 17th of February, 1855.  No Naturalization Papers were necessary for Anna Marie as wives became citizens simply by being married.   Jacob and his bride, Anna Marie, and their daughter, Elisabeth (born in Germany in 1846) established a home in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania where, according to the 1870 U.S. census, Jacob worked as a boiler maker and Anna Marie kept house in their little home on Fell Street.  The couple had two more children; another Elisabeth and Anna Marie later known as simply "Mary".

There is a record of Jacob having registered for the Civil War Draft between 1863 and 1865. Whether or not he fought in battle, I do not know.

Jacob died on the 5th of March, 1897 after having written a will leaving all of his earthly possessions to Anna Marie.  The obituary from the Wilkes-Barre Times referred to him as a "highly respected old citizen".

Jacob was 77 years of age when he died of "general debility".  Survived by Anna Marie and three daughters, he was buried in the City Cemetery.  He had been a member of the German Lutheran Kripplein Christi Church.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day Two

After another quick breakfast, we headed out to the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society where Roseann Kebles was waiting for us.  Housed in what looked like an old caretakers house adjoining a cemetery, the NEPGS is a white shingled structure that is now devoted to housing a large collection of genealogical and historical documents.  They also have a Facebook page which is how I learned about them.

Today, we were on the hunt for Naturalization records.  On microfiche, Emily and I, with the help of Roseann  learned how to thread the film into the microfilm readers and started scrolling.  You can get dizzy from scrolling thru the hundreds of records on this film and it is easy to scroll right past the very one you are looking for.  Luckily, each record is numbered and I located records for not just my great grandfather, William Lentz, but also for my great great grandfather, Jacob Stoebener and several of the Strauch men.  The Strauch's were the family that provided room and board to my grandfather and his two brothers when they first arrived in the United States in 1905.

I learned that my great great grandfather Jacob, immigrated at the age of 31 in 1851 and applied for citizenship in 1855.

We spent several hours at the NEPGS.  One of the staff genealogists, Alan Durst, even fed us hotdogs to help keep our strength up!

Since we were on the far side of town, it made sense to run by the Oaklawn Cemetery which was nearby just to see if there were any ancestral graves located there.  It was not surprising to find familiar names and dates among the stones there and the caretakers were delightfully helpful!  Oaklawn is a beautiful cemetery, newer than the others and very well maintained.

On our return to town, it seemed a good time to drive thru the "old neighborhoods".  It is hard to believe that these houses are still standing 200 years after my ancestors occupied them.  They are old now and this end of town is run down, the houses occupied mostly by large Hispanic families unable to afford their upkeep.

We started at:   254 Kidder Street, the home of the Strauch's - the "landing pad" for my grandfather and his brothers.  Then we drove and found 145 Park Ave. where my grandmother Mary lived with her parents; William and Elizabeth and 7 siblings.  We continued to explore the area and realized that this had been a small community where all of the homes had been within walking distance of each other so it is not surprising that they knew each other, became friends, dated and even married!

It wasn't until I returned home and was doing some additional research that I learned that the Baltimore Mine ran directly underneath some of these homes and that in 1863, much of the area collapsed and was flooded in what was known as "The Great Mine Disaster of 1863".  Subsequent mining disasters in this area compromised the desireability of this area.  This would partly explain the large fenced off park like area not far from Hancock Street.  Several of the homes there had been lost never to be built back again.  Streets were re-named, re-aligned or just eliminated.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After a light breakfast, we drove to the Good Shepherd Church in downtown Wilkes Barre.  Good Shepherd had once been St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, evident by the wording carved in stone still over the front door.  Adrienne French, the church historian, was ready for us and took us to a small room filled with filing cabinets and a large table on which she had already stacked old church record books for our perusal.  She left us alone but only after presenting each of us with a brick from the original wall of the church now undergoing renovation.  We each pulled on a pair of gloves (to protect the paper from body oils, etc.) and selected a book to begin examining.  Page after crumbling yellow page, we scanned the faded ink for familiar German names.  We had a hand scanning wand, an IPAD and two cameras on which to take photos of whatever records we could find - and WOW - did we find them!
My paternal grandmother, Mary Lentz, attended this church as did her mother, Elizabeth and her grandparents, Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener before her.  Mary was baptized here, sang in the choir, was married here and had one of her babies baptized here.  Her siblings were also baptized and married here.  So much history!  The sermons were delivered in German by the Reverand Louis Lindenstruth and the congregation was a large and active one.

After several hours of record combing, we walked upstairs to see the sanctuary which still boasts stained glass windows from the early 1900's.  The original silver
communion vessels are in a locked viewing cabinet as is a quilt with the names of choir members, vestry and other officers of the church embroidered on it.  Looking at the underside of the quilt, we could see the name "Mrs. Lentz" emboidered next to many others.  The quilt was given by the church members as a gift to the Rev. Lindenstruth in the late 1800's  the time of my grandmothers service there.  His daughter donated the quilt to the church in  1976. 
We were in dire need of some food by now and so stopped in at a little outdoor eatery in the middle of downtown Wilkes Barre on the campus of Wilkes College. 
Then - on to some cemetery work!
Our next stop was Hollenback Cemetery....the offices here were a lot older and more deteriorated than I expected, but after all, they are over 200 years old!  We had been warned about the the grounds keeper here so we did not stop in the office but drove round and round trying to make sense of the map that had been sent to me previously by Joan Cavanaugh.  Joan is a wonderful and generous volunteer with Find a Grave and had gotten some headstone photographs for me previously.  We finally located the stones we wanted to find and others that we were surprised to find.  Unfortunately, we never located the gravesite of Anna Lentz, the first born of Wilhelm and Elizabeth Lentz.  Anna died of diptheria in 1885 at the age of nine.  Perhaps the family could not afford a marker for the young girl.
We had made arrangements to take Joan Cavanaugh to dinner to thank her for all of her hard work on our behalf and met her at 4:00pm across the street from Hollenback at a little bar and grill named "Patti's".  After ordering burgers and onion soup, we chatted as if we'd known each other forever.  Joan offered to take us grave hunting at the cemetery next to Hollenback, the Wilkes Barre City Cemetery, where Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener found "eternal rest".  As Joan had taken their photo, she was able to quickly locate the gravestone which is in amazing condition for its' age.  She graciously took a photo of Em and I at the stone.  As far as I am aware, Jacob and Anna Marie were the first of our ancestors to arrive in the United States, having immigrated in 1851 from the Rhine Province in Bavaria.  Jacob, born in 1820 was 31 years of age.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day One

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
On Monday, Emily drove to South Carolina from Alabama where her daughter, Taylor Ann is attending camp.  Emily has been working as a counselor there but had planned on spending this week with me on our second "genealogical journey".  After doing some camp laundry, she re-packed and got prepared for our trip.  On this next day, Tuesday, Em and I drove to the Greenville/Spartensburg Airport where we boarded a US Airways flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Upon arrival, we picked up our rental car, a White Toyota Camry, and drove the two hours to Wilkes Barre, Pa., where we checked in at the Mountain View Best Western Hotel and Conference Center.  We were pretty tired, but we unpacked and made our way downstairs where we had a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Once back in our room, we reviewed the agenda for the next few days and then I went down to the indoor pool for some badly needed stretching in the warm water while Emily rested and watched some television.  We both fell asleep quickly and slept peacefully through the night.